Legal Beat: Bread for the City’s Free Clinics

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Since starting this column, I have been researching the availability of legal resources for the homeless. In addition to the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Bread for the City is another well regarded place to find legal help.

According to its website, Bread for the City operates two legal clinics. The first is called the D.C. Employment Justice Center, which holds walk-in workers’ rights clinics at 1525 7th St. NW every Wednesday from 6:00 to 7:30 pm and at 1640 Good Hope Road SE the last Saturday of every month from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

The second clinic is called the D.C. Bar Advice and Referral Clinic. It holds walk-in legal hours at both locations on the second Saturday of each month from 10:00 am until noon.

The clinics represent clients in landlord-tenant disputes and those denied Social Security disability benefits. Clinic workers also attend hearings for other public benefits and clients with family law issues like child custody, civil protection orders, child support and divorce. The clinics are staffed by dozens of volunteer attorneys, paralegals and law students who work alongside 14 staff attorneys and one loaned associate from a law firm with offices located internationally and in D.C. Last year the clinic provided over 4,000 individuals with advice, referrals and full representation.

Bread for the City also has several special projects including the Community Lawyering Project, the Court-Based Legal Services Program, the Child Support Community Legal Services Project and the Domestic Violence Community Legal Services Project.  The Community Lawyering Project is limited to those in Wards 7 and 8.  It helps residents in direct representation, advocacy, community education and community building on issues of affordable housing, public benefits and economic development.

Volunteer and staff attorneys work with the Legal Aid Society to operate the Court-Based Legal Services Program. This program allows attorneys to appear in court with clients, sometimes on the same day as intake.

For Street Sense patrons wanting to get involved, be assured that the staff attorneys provide guidance and support in every step of a case. The clinic also provides files and intake forms to get the case going and has a vast forms library to assist with many of the issues that the clients commonly face.  Volunteer attorneys who get involved gain an understanding of the issues facing a marginalized segment of the District, get an opportunity to develop their practice and gain new skills, plus meet other like-minded professionals to share ideas, consult, and work with on other projects. As such, the Bread for the City clinics are a resource for the Street Sense vendors and an opportunity for some of Street Sense’s barred patrons to give back.

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